Republicans on the Hill will protect Trump. Most Republicans would vote for Trump in 2020, no matter what happens. “Russia” won’t faze them for a second.
The task Democrats face is to pull together a compelling vision and message to win back the House and Senate over 2018 and 2020. “Russia” alone, won’t work. Just as distaste for Trump alone didn’t work in 2016.
We’ve had four House special elections this year. Democrats have lost all four. All four were tough races to replace Republicans from very safe districts who were appointed to posts within the Trump administration. In 2016, the Republicans were all incumbents, and their Democratic challengers were:
Mike Pompeo (60.7%) won against Daniel Giroux (29.6%) in KS-4
Ryan Zinke (56.2%) won against Denise Juneau (40.5%) in MT-AL
Tom Price (61.7%) won against Rodney Stooksbury (38.3%) in GA-06
Mick Mulvaney (59.2%) won against Fran Person (38.7%) in SC-05
In KS-04, an Independent and a Libertarian won almost 10% of the vote in 2016.
First for the good news, Democrats improved their margins significantly, losing by single digits races they had lost by 15%, 20% or even 30%.
3rd party candidates didn’t play a significant role in the special elections except in Montana. I’m ignoring CA-34 for obvious reasons. FWIW, Chaffetz’s seat in UT-03 is up on November 7, Sessions’ Senate seat is also up on Dec 12.
Two of these special elections rank among the most expensive house races. The Georgia race was the most expensive ever, with estimates putting total spending at $60 million. The DCCC dropped $5 million into the Ossoff race, which was an enormous bet that they could win a deeply Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs. The DCCC and other Democratic groups spent far less on the other three races.
* The numbers above aren’t complete, Q2 filings aren’t in, I link to my sources.
The amount of spending does seem to correlate with turnout. The two expensive races, MT-AL and GA-06 had pretty high turnout for an off-year election. For a special election, it was sky-high. The low spend races had much larger drops in turnout.
But the spending didn’t result in better margins. The improvements over the 2016 Democratic candidate and Clinton’s vote share were lowest in MT-AL and GA-06. The largest gains over 2016 tallies were in KS-04 and SC-05. Those races were largely ignored by the national media and Democratic donors, until the very last minute,
Distaste for Trump alone won’t automatically translate into victory. I listed the candidate’s stances on single-payer as a proxy for whether or not they’re progressive, so you can consider whether or not policy positions played a role. It’s not clear it made a difference, but if you look at average improvement over the 2016 Presidential and Congressional candidate, even Rob Quist did better (3.6% + 8.2%) than Jon Ossoff (9.8% + 1.3%). There is still some question as to whether any of the candidates have run a robust “anti-Trump” campaign.
That said, every candidate improved on the vote-share gained by the presidential or congressional candidate in 2016. They all improved on Obama’s vote-share in 2012.
If improvement over 2016 is the measure, then James Thompson’s campaign was the best run. But he lost by the widest margin. If loss by smallest margin is the measure, then Archie Parnell ran the best campaign. And Parnell is literally a lawyer for Goldman who ran on a centrist message.
The loss margin has shrunk with each race. Perhaps that’s because the GA, SC candidates ran better races. Or it may be because Trump’s approval ratings have dropped even further in a month. The only woman in the four races was a Republican, Karen Handel in GA-06. All the candidates were white.
There are many different ways to read the data. Personally, the two things that stand out to me is that the sleeper races were tighter, and that fundraising/spending drove turnout.
It is very difficult to claim the enormous sums spent on the GA-06 race were a wise allocation of resources. Yes, on its face, Clinton outperformed Obama’s 2012 tally in GA-06, so it’s reasonable to believe that district had a high dislike for Trump. Yet Ossoff didn’t improve much over Clinton’s total. Should that silence those strategists who believe dislike of Trump married to a carefully crafted centrist message delivered by a polished candidates will carry Democrats to victory (at least in the suburbs)? It probably won’t, because there are other reasons the party contested Ga-06 as if it were and existential threat:
If Ossoff were to win, it would be taken by a lot of Democrats as a huge validation of the centrist/barely-left-of-center approach to 2018.
But yeah, if he comes up short, it’s a new opening for the left of the party to argue that only a more pointed liberal message will fire up the voters the party needs for 2018.
That was the biggest concern mainstream Democrats had going into tonight. — NY Times
The biggest question I’m left with is this. Would it have made more of a long-term difference if $20 of the $28 million spent in GA-06 had been spent on a voter registration campaign? We will never know.
We have been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years now, and for much of that time, it’s been two steps forward and three steps back.
This week, we went three steps back as ISIS captured the mountain fortress of Tora Bora. The ISIS forces in Afghanistan include the remnants of Al-Qaeda. Tora Bora is where Bin-Laden went immediately after 9/11. It’s a large complex with miles of tunnels, roads and caves dug into granite mountains.
If you think this is only two steps back, recall that Tora Bora was originally built with funding from the CIA. The CIA helped build this fortress for the Mujahideen to support their war against the Soviets.
Important events are occurring on the battlefield, you would think our president, as commander in chief would want to be briefed closely on them.
In nearly five months in office, President Trump has yet to meet or speak with either his Iraq or Afghanistan commander, even as his administration weighs deeper and longer-term involvement in both conflicts and asks Congress for a vast increase in defense spending. — LA Times
This is in stark contrast to George W. Bush, who took his responsibility as commander in chief seriously and spoke weekly with his commanders in the region. Obama was also diligent about fulfilling his duties to the troops by maintaining close contact with his commanding generals.
So there is now, no ongoing, direct oversight of the US military operation in Afghanistan from the White House. At least not from the President. While the White House is talking about escalating the conflicts. Trump, who has been a bullshit artist all his life, is bullshitting his way through our biggest military engagement since Vietnam. Think I’m exaggerating?
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said this yesterday:
Yesterday afternoon, the President directed the Department of Defense to set troop levels in Afghanistan. This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context. — DoD statement
The President has passed the buck and handed to the War Department, the authority to send additional Americans into battle. Maybe if we brought back the draft, people would sit up and take notice. Or then again, maybe not, Trump and his chicken hawk friends will find a way to have their children diagnosed with bone spurs.
Perhaps we should be thankful Trump isn’t interested in Afghanistan or Iraq. In Syria, which Trump has talked about, coalition airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian deaths in the past couple of months (ditto in Iraq). That includes 200 people sheltering in a school in Raqqa. The UN calls the loss of civilian life “staggering”. The administration’s response has been to increase secrecy, Trump’s administration is now refusing to confirm whether or not US forces were involved in airstrikes that killed civilians.
Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and think about what we’re doing here.
Instead, we are blowing up villages with fellow humans in them. We have very little to show for all the millions of tons of explosives we’ve dropped, and the rivers of blood we’ve spilled. Spreading death and destruction across much of the Middle-East such that the monetary cost of the wars pales in comparison.
Was Nero toying with his clubs while Rome burned?
We’ve demonstrated to the world that our president is diligent about getting in a round of golf every week. But he can’t be bothered to speak with the generals in charge of his campaigns, while we have tens of thousands of troops deployed on the front under his command.
What is the purpose of these wars?
Why do we think “regime change” led by us is the best alternative?
Why are we setting hundreds of billions of dollars on fire every year?
Why are we blowing up brown people in several countries?
Under the new MacArthur-Meadows Amendment in Trumpcare, states would be allowed to waive the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also allows states to waive preventative health services like vaccinations, mammograms and gynecological screenings. For those who survive a sexual assault, care can often be needed from the physical trauma as well as mental. Survivors can contract sexually transmitted infections and women can be impregnated, despite the claim that women’s bodies can “shut that whole thing down.”
As people learned from late-night TV last week, babies can have “pre-existing” conditions at birth. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could treat complications during or after delivery as “pre-existing conditions” to deny coverage to mothers as well.
The new MacArthur-Meadows Amendment will allow states to discriminate based on medical history, reportedly without addressing the subsequent high cost of health care for millions of Americans.
In addition to rape, postpartum depression, cesarean sections, and surviving domestic violence are all considered preexisting conditions. Companies can also deny coverage for gynecological services and mammograms.
When the ACA was first passed in 2009, Huffington Post reported on this aspect of the health insurance debate multiple times, interviewing survivors of sexual assault who had been denied coverage:
Some women have contacted the Investigative Fund to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted. […]
Fallon says she now has trouble getting coverage for gynecological exams. To avoid the hassle of fighting with her insurance company, she goes to Planned Parenthood instead and pays out of pocket.
A New Mexico woman told the Investigative Fund she was denied coverage at several health insurance companies because she had suffered from PTSD after being attacked and raped in 2003. She did not want to disclose her name because she feared that she would lose her group health insurance if she went on the record as a rape victim. “I remember just feeling infuriated,” she said.
Christina Turner was drugged and raped by two men in 2002. After taking anti-HIV drugs prescribed by her doctor as a preventative measure, Turner was denied health insurance. The HIV drugs, Turner was told, raised too many health questions for her insurer.
So if you’ve spent the last two days fighting for Barack Obama’s right to make $400,000 for an hour long speech, that’s great. But you damn well better spend the other 363 days of the year fighting for the 35 million American workers who need your solidarity to help raise the federal minimum to a living wage.
The NY Times has been running a “Man (Woman) on the Street” series with ordinary Iranians for the past few weeks. Even for someone like me who is interested and has folowed Iranian events, it contained some remarkable surprises. For instance, today’s installment is with a hardliner who states:
One of the positive points about the Islamic Revolution is that the literacy rate, which was only 25 percent before the revolution, has dramatically increased to 99 percent. Now, Iranian people are literate and understanding. They can read and analyze the news, and that is why they believe in their leader. Our people have sacrificed their children for this revolution, and they are either families of martyrs or families of veterans. They do not like the United States. This was why the Islamic Revolution toppled the former regime.
Now, he’s kind of over-stating the gains in literacy, which isn’t even necessary since the gains are incredible (lots more on that below).
I have been going to the Friday prayers since the first Friday prayer after the revolution. I remember that my father and I jumped on the back of a double-decker bus because we did not have enough money to pay the bus fare. People used to be poor in those days. Now, fortunately, every family has one or two cars.
I’m going to ignore the comment about cars and focus on the things that I think are more important and that government can actually help improve, health care and basic services. But it is important to note that all of us as citizens evaluate our government in terms of the material success it makes possible.If you go by standard US news coverage on Iran, it would appear that the country is run by crazed religious fanatics who sit around all day plotting to stone adulterers (primarily women), imprison/execute gay people or force them to seek “treatment” and “cures” for homosexuality (but hey I know at least one other country where that last one is somewhat common, yes I’m looking at you Americuh). Somewhat strangely, it seems they think gender re-assignment surgery is an acceptable “solution”. Oh yeah, and they shout Death to America every Friday in unison.
The issue of capital punishment and discrimination against homosexuals and women is extremely important, but it isn’t everything. Though I want things to change today for everyone, we should remember that this is a very conservative part of the world, even Israel, which is arguably furthest along in its acceptance of gay rights has religious authorities who say “homosexuality is a complete evil” as the former chief rabbi of Israel Ovadai Yosef did. Though arguably Turkey has historically been a better model, same-sex relations have been legal there since 1858. About 100 years earlier than most US states. The Ottoman Empire was apparently a lot more open to gay rights than Victorian Anglo-Saxon societies. As with most things in Turkey, Erdogan’s government has been moving the country in a more socially conservative direction.
But what I want to tackle here are very basic measures of health, nutrition, health-care well-being and support, particularly for the most vulnerable among us, children.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the data shall we? The questions we want to consider as we look through the stats are:
What measurable improvements in well-being and development has the “Iranian revolution” been able to deliver or maintain since it took control of the country in 1979.
In particular, where does Iran stand when it comes to things like infant mortality, childhood development, literacy and healthcare for children and women.
How does this compare to other similar sized countries in the region.
It’s been a while since I’ve pored through economic development stats, but at one time I had some fluency in the subject. I’m going to use UNICEF development statistics for Iraq, Iran, Turkeyand the USA. They come from UN, WHO and World Bank datasets and they are of good quality (they are widely used for country level developmental research by academic economists). I’ve used Turkey as a regional comparable and the US as a well-understood control (at least for DKos purposes). Iraq is in there as another regional comparable, but since we’ve recently tried to spread freedom in that country recently (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”, hell yeah!), it serves yet another purpose. The Iraq data tells us what the Iranian people can look forward to if we try the same trick in Iran.
Primary school net enrollment ratio (%) 2008-2011*
Couple of things stand out here. Iran falls somewhere between Turkey and Iraq on infant mortality, and that is going to be a consistent theme in the data.But here’s the remarkable thing, infant mortality has fallen from 56 per 1,000 to 18 per 1,000. Turkey did even better, but Iran shows amazing improvement. In contrast, India has only managed to go from 126 to 56 (yeah, India’s democratically elected governments from both left and right have been awful on development fronts). Iraq has fallen behind in contrast and a lot of that has to do with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Our ill-advised, poorly-planned adventure in Iraq took out so much of Iraq’s infrastructure that it is still costing the lives of thousands of Iraqi children. I hope there is a very special section in hell reserved for Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for their failure to plan for our military occupation of Iraq with diligence and care.
When you look at life-expectancy, you can see that Iran has developed world life expectancy well above 70. And 85% is a pretty good literacy rate for the population. India is at 63%, Saudi Arabia which is wealthier is at 87% (Saudi per capita GDP is over $25,000, Iran’s is under $5,000).
What is really fantastic though is the 99.9% primary school enrollment rate. That is virtually universal, and about 4% better than the US. The impact is visible in near-universal literacy among the young.
This is a very important measure which is why I emphasize it. What it tells us that Iranian women, particularly expectant mothers, receive very good nutrition. That is not the case in India where 28% of babies have low birth-weight. These statistics are tough to achieve in a rigid patriarchy or a country with pervasive discrimination against women.
Average annual growth rate of urban population (%), 1990-2012
Average annual growth rate of urban population (%), 2012-2030
Here we’re looking at some historical trends. Most important is how life expectancy has changed. Iran achieved Turkey-level improvements in life expectancy, going from 63 to 74, between 1990 and 2012. To do that requires substantial improvements in sanitation, health care and nutrition. And remember, Turkey is a NATO member with a free-trade agreement with the EU and its per capita GDP is more than twice Iran’s.On the subject of GDP see this:
Iraqi data looks patchy or unadjusted for inflation in some portions of the graph, ignore that (yes, I’m lazy, the graph is from Google since they have decent visualization on World Bank data and I can’t be bothered to scrub it). You can see the Iranian regime made significant gains even though their economy was not really growing much per capita in the 1990s. You can see the enormous impact of the war through 1980-1988 and the impact of the sanctions in the last four years of data.Taking a wider view, Indian life expectancy only went from 58 to 66 over the same period. Even China with it’s insane levels of growth took from 1970 till 2012 to raise life-expectancy from 63 to 75 years (far bigger country though, ergo more inertia).
Whatever the Iranian regime was doing between 1990 and 2012 paid off handsomely in terms of the basic health and longevity of the Iranian people.
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1970-1990
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1990-2000
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 2000-2012
Annual rate of reduction (%) Under-5 mortality rate, 1990-2012
Reduction since 1990 (%)
Reduction since 2000 (%)
GDP per capita average annual growth rate (%), 1970-1990
GDP per capita average annual growth rate (%), 1990-2012
Total fertility rate, 1970
Total fertility rate, 1990
Total fertility rate, 2012
Average annual rate of reduction (%) Total fertility rate, 1970-1990
Average annual rate of reduction (%) Total fertility rate, 1990-2012
You can see that fertility rates have fallen dramatically (this typically happens when more kids survive into adulthood), and overall economic growth (GDP) has been consistently strong since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.I want to close with education since it is so crucial to everything else.
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008 -2012*, male
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008 -2012*, female
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2008-2012*, admin. data
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2008-2012*, survey data
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, male
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2012*, female
The Iranian regime is basically knocking it out of the park when it comes to education. Their female literacy rates are phenomenal. Their primary school enrollment and attendance rates are eye-popping (better than the US). Secondary school participation rates are higher than Turkey. When comparing secondary school education levels with developed world economies like the US, we should adjust for the rural nature of Iran.If I were looking at this data and didn’t have the country headings, I would conclude that the Iranian government did an absolutely stellar job at development between 1990 and 2012. They invested in education, health care (just look at those 99% immunization rates below the fold!), sanitation (more data on that below). They made health-care services for pregnant women universal (their numbers are better than Turkey’s). They did the same on education for girls.
This is a development economist’s wet dream.
I’m not kidding, I’m tearing up at the thought of how many children they’ve managed to save from an early death. I’m jubilant at the number of women and girls who can participate in society because of universal education.
This tells me that overall the Iranian regime have been good, no very good, for the health and well-being of the Iranian people.
What this should tell us as citizens is that the media caricature of Iran is fatally flawed. The Iranian people have good reason to believe their government is fundamentally good for them. Yes, there are things it can do better, particularly when it comes to minority rights. But overall, it has hit every bogey when it comes to basic health and human services.
What we also know, is that our poorly planned policy of regime change in Iraq caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Whatever Iranians may think of their regime, they’ve seen what happened in Iraq and only an utter moron to would think they would want that for their own country. I’m sorry, I forgot the despicable evil bastards who don’t care about the suffering and death of thousands of children and advocate war so their buddies could make a killing replenishing our arms depots (yeah, I mean you Mr. Halliburton CEO).
The Iranians have good reason to like their government and we would be utterly foolish to think that our bombs and troops would be greeted as anything other than the tools of a great Satan bent on destroying the peace and prosperity of Iran to serve it’s own ends. And they would be right.
More details, mostly because I spent so much time formatting them for DKos…
The leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also expressed strong and rare criticism toward Iran’s regional competitor, Saudi Arabia, calling the new leaders in Riyadh “inexperienced youths” who were highlighting the country’s “barbarous features.”In public remarks that were bound to escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia, Mr. Khamenei referred to Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen as an invasion and “a genocide,” which he called a “bad mistake” and a crime akin “to those committed by the Zionists in Gaza.”
“Despite disputes,#Saudis used to display composure w us but now inexperienced #youngsters have come to power& replaced composure w barbarism” — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 9, 2015
The last is kind of a strange thing to say since King Salman is 82 (ascended to throne in January).
He also made some comments on the nuclear deal which contain a mix of optimism and skepticism. I would take them with many servings of salt. He’s speaking to a domestic audience which contains people who do not want any deal with the US, and he clearly cannot turn on a dime and advocate reconciliation with the “great Satan”. It’s the same kind of rhetorical dilemma our politicians face when discussing deals with a charter member of the “Axis of Evil”.
It’ll take years before Iranian and American politicians can speak about each other in non-judgmental terms. Huge props to President Obama for dialing down the rhetoric from day one, as exemplified in the Cairo speech. This rapprochement with Iran has been six years in the making, which is why it is so crucial that it be given every chance to succeed. As I argued earlier, if it works, it will be Obama’s foreign policy legacy and Cuba was a dry run.
It must be clear, the ayatollah said, that the negotiations were not going beyond the nuclear field. “But,” he continued, “if the other side refrains from its normal bad actions, this will become an experience that we can continue on other issues. If we see that once again they repeat their bad actions, it will only strengthen our experience of not trusting America.”The Iranian leader said that he was not worried about the talks failing and leading to a regional race toward enrichment. In a veiled address to Saudi Arabia, he challenged that country to try and start a nuclear program without the help of foreigners.
“An underdeveloped country said, ‘If Iran has enrichment, we want it too,’” he said. “Well, do it if you can. Nuclear technology is our domestic capability.”
In a televised speech marking Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology, Khamenei also ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures” over Iran’s nuclear activities and said that “Iran’s military sites cannot be inspected under the excuse of nuclear supervision,” the Associated Press reported. But he also repeated his denials that Iran has any intention of building nuclear weapons, which he has declared to be forbidden by Islam.
It was not immediately clear whether Khamenei was seeking to assuage hard-liners in Iran who have vocally opposed the nuclear negotiations, or whether he was signaling his own deal-breaking reservations about the framework agreement. Khamenei has the final say on Iranian acceptance of any agreement.Khamenei said he had faith in Rouhani’s negotiators but expressed suspicion of Washington, warning about its “devilish” intentions.
“I neither support nor oppose the deal,” he said, Reuters reported. “Everything is in the details. It may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details.”
He added: “I was never optimistic about negotiating with America. . . . Nonetheless I agreed to the negotiations and supported, and still support, the negotiators.” As he spoke , a crowd chanted, “Death to America,” Reuters said.
The NY Times highlighted the emphasis Khamenei seems to have placed on all sanctions being lifted the day a deal is signed:
“The sanctions should be lifted all together on the same day of the agreement, not six months or one year later,” Mr. Khamenei said. “If lifting of sanctions is supposed to be connected to a process, then why do we negotiate?””Hours after the #talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed.They always deceive breach promises.” — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 9, 2015